Dr. Bhaso Ndzendze — University of Johannesburg

An International Relations Theory + Political Science Research Lab

Interview with former South African deputy minister of foreign affairs Aziz Pahad. January 2019. Johannesburg.


My research work contributes to re-understanding Africa’s international relations and international relations theory with a specific focus on trade, FDI, and war (and their interaction) in situations which provide dichotomous choices through multiple theoretical lenses in typological fashion. This has been demonstrated in his examinations of ‘opportunity cost’ frameworks of African official decision-making in their dealings with China and Taiwan and in African countries’ decisions to either maintain the status quo of peace or go to war with each other in interstate disputes. At the root of this is an understanding of Africa’s nation-building and developmental pursuits (no matter how poorly realised) as survival imperatives which are at the core of their foreign policies.

Join the Lab: In addition to more experienced academics, I also work with several postgraduate students who are interested in the same areas through supervision and publishing opportunities. Contact me at bndzendze@uj.ac.za to explore how we can collaborate.



My work in this area is two-fold; I seek to understand the domestic audience cost considerations that African countries have had to consider in initiating wars against one another, and I seek to understand the ways in which the democratisation of the countries on the continent contributed to their decision to recognise China over Taiwan. In this regard, I have proposed two theories. With regards to war, my work has shown that the African countries gave demonstrable consideration to not only their domestic audience costs but also to their targetted rivals’ levels of legitimacy. This extends the literature considerably and demonstrates the regime-type consideration they give of their rival states’ legitimacy within their audience. Secondly, I have demonstrated a democratic effect for African countries with regards to their recognition of China over Taiwan. In brief, the presence or introduction of electoral competition forces African countries to choose the most economically viable alternative between the smaller and much larger China claimants.

Published and working papers:


Given the nature of ongoing changes in the technological sphere, my research has also sought to understand the impact of new military and industrial production technologies on international relations processes and how political scientists think about international relations in the wake of these.

Tools: World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI)



In this area, I seek to understand the ways in which economic interdependency has developed and is playing out between Africa and various countries. I especially insert variables of interest to examine their impact – or lack thereof – on FDI and trade inflows over certain periods of time. I have utilised this to examine how African countries have had their military thinking unchecked by the absence of economic interdependence, how technological changes are likely to impact FDI flows, how demand for African energy is impacted by the attainment of self-sufficiency by the larger markets such as Brazil and the US.

Tools: MIT Observatory of Economic Complexity; UN TradeMap; World Bank; UNCTAD; AEI

Published and working papers:


My excursions into this area include analysis of the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC) in Thucydides, to the hypothetical presence and role of such an actor in East Africa in the 1970s to the 1990s, as well as to the complicated trends observed by China and the US. In this regard, one of my methods involves examining the outbreak of conflicts (or lack thereof) between countries in a determined region at the dips or growths of the demarcated hegemon’s relative GDP and military budget. This method is inspired by K. Edward Spiezio (1990) in “British Hegemony and Major Power War, 1815-1939: An Empirical Test of Gilpin’s Model of Hegemonic Governance” International Studies Ouarterly.

Published and working papers:

  • Catching up after a millennium: Jeffrey Sachs on the Chinese economic model, Centre for Africa-China Studies
  • The impact of the US-led war on terror on East African-Chinese economic relations
  • Region without Hegemon? East Africa’s Interstate Wars, 1977-2000 [ongoing research project]


I maintain a blog at Global Politics Blog here.